The Purpose of Creativity: Good

Contrary to popular perceptions of creativity as being purely about doing something cool or nifty, creativity bears a purpose that enriches our world. Someone recently said to me that he thought creativity was just about being artsy and crafty. It is and much more. Creativity holds back the onslaught of suffering and moves forward the progress of development. The exercise of creativity is necessary for a good world.

There’s something we yearn for in our world, in our lives, and in our very selves, that we often have difficulty describing with a single word or sentence. But we know we need it and we’re striving for it. Every human soul strives for it. One ancient word encapsulates this gut-level desire.

“It was good” is the iconic evaluation of God’s creative product and establishes a fundamental purpose of creativity -- that it is intended to produce good in the world. The result of each product could not be problematic and the quality could not even simply be satisfactory or adequate. This word that has largely been superficialized in our culture but it bears a profound meaning, which thinkers held for centuries, including philosophers, poets, and theologians. The good was a way in which intellectuals and those who sought beauty saw the world and the way the world ought to be. Good meant beautiful, excellent, wonderful, whole, full, righteous, noble, and lovely. It captured the sum of all that we would want in our world, our lives, and in ourselves.

The good is about flourishing. Merely existing was not the intended result of God’s creativity. Flourishing lives and a world burgeoning with beauty was the intended result of creativity. The beauty was not only in appearances. The world was beautiful because it was full of love, grace, righteousness, wisdom, meaning, and seemingly limitless imagination. One could not stand in the center of a field of flowers or at the base of a majestic waterfall and not sense that the world reflects benevolence – love and wisdom resound in this creativity. In such a world, souls can thrive, be endlessly curious, and find spiritual nurturance. It was not a world of corruption, diminishing the spirit, and harm. A world of wonder illuminates the effervescent glory of its Creator. This world was good. And the good was the purpose of original creativity.

Human creativity ought to add greater good to our world. That means fragmented relationships are reconciled, broken communities are redeemed, the depressed are finding greater levels of hope, minds are enlightened with greater insights on life and the universe, and culture is enriched. When an artist creates a painting that helps people see beauty or acknowledge brokenness, it is good. When an architect designs a building that provides an enlivened workspace versus a depressing place, it is good. When a mother applies creative ways to guide her child’s development, it is good.

Twyla Tharp wrote, “Creativity is an act of defiance.” Creativity is defiance against settling for mediocrity, accepting complacency, and resignation towards brokenness – physical, mental, and spiritual. Creativity is a bold, brazen act with insight and inspiration that’s bent on achieving the good – a burgeoning world with flourishing souls. Even as God looked into the empty and formless abyss before unfurling his creative power, he had one intended result in mind: that this chaotic, lifeless mass would become a beautiful world teeming with full lives. Creativity then is no superficial act that sits on the surface. It is a world-changing action for the good.

Brian See Chan